The internet has been a wonderful boon for all us makers, giving us access to patterns from people and places all over the world. For those of us who crochet, crochet terms can be problematic… but it isn’t anything we can’t handle with a little bit of sleuthing up front.
Let’s dive in and see what makes English language crochet patterns a tad special.
Even though the English language across countries has much in common, there are many words that are spelled differently. Similarly, by the time crochet patterns were being published en masse, particularly for newspapers and pamphlets in the early 20th century, two different ways of naming stitches had emerged.
Unfortunately for us, they also have much in common.
US basic crochet stitch terms, also referred to as North American terms, are based on the number of loops on your hook after you’ve done your initial yarn over (or wraps) but before inserting your hook to pull up your first loop. You are likely to find these terms used by people or publications from USA and Canada.
Sometimes referred to as British terms, the UK basic crochet stitch terms are based on the number of loops on your hook after you pull up your first loop. You are likely to find these terms used by people or publications from the British Isles, Australia, and New Zealand.
Sounds fine so far.
Let’s look at some examples.
US Single Crochet = UK Double Crochet
I start per usual with a loop on my needle. For this stitch, there are no yarn overs before I insert my hook to pull up the first loop, so there is only this one loop. So, the base version of this stitch in US terms is a single crochet.
Now, I insert my hook to pull up the first loop.
After I have pulled up my first loop, I now have two loops on the hook. In UK terms, this means that the base version of this stitch is called a double crochet.
And here is the complete stitch—a US single crochet = a UK double crochet.
Let’s try another.
US Double Crochet = UK Treble Crochet
To begin, we have our initial loop and now we have a yarn over (wrap) before we insert our hook to pull through the first loop. Counting the loops of the hook, we have two loops, so the base version of this stitch is called a US double crochet.
Next, we insert a hook and pull through the first loop. On our hook now we have three loops. The base version of this stitch, in UK terms, is a treble crochet.
Here is the complete stitch—a US double crochet = a UK treble crochet.
Houston, we have a problem!
We have gone through two examples here… can you spot the issue? We now have two different definitions for a double crochet!
If you don’t know which terms your pattern is written in, you might end up in a bit of a muddle. Best case scenario, it kind of looks the same if you don’t look too closely, but the size of project and amount of yarn used is off. Worst case scenario, you end up with a big mess.
How do I know if my pattern uses US or UK crochet terms?
Is it listed in the pattern?
It is best practice in contemporary patterns to include a statement which lets the maker know which terminology was used for the pattern instructions. Maybe you will get lucky, and the designer will let you know upfront!
Is there a single crochet?
The term single crochet is unique to US crochet terms. The term doesn’t get used at all in UK crochet terms.
It doesn’t matter whether your pattern is written out in words, charted with symbols, or laid out in a grid; if it has a single crochet, it is using US crochet terms. The first place to check is the abbreviations list or the chart key to find the different terms, but it is worth your while to speed read the instructions just in case.
If single crochet isn’t used in the pattern, we can’t decide yet. It may be that it is in UK terms, or it may just be that the pattern doesn’t include that stitch.
Is there a half treble?
The term half treble crochet is unique to US crochet terms. The term doesn’t get used at all in UK crochet terms.
Once again, it doesn’t matter on the style of instructions. If it has a half treble crochet, it is using US crochet terms. If it doesn’t have a half treble crochet, it doesn’t mean anything. ☹ [Editor’s Note Feb 7: the original article accidentally had UK instead of US. We’ve corrected it here and our thanks to the reader who helped us catch it.]
Is there a picture?
If you can see a clear picture of the project, you may be able to identify the stitches visually.
How long are the turning chains?
The number of chains made to create a turning chain is related to the height of a stitch. If the pattern uses turning chains when you change rows or rounds then you can use that information to figure out which stitch, and thus terms, are being used in the pattern.
Where (and when) was the pattern originally published?
This is more reliable for older patterns, but if you can figure out where the pattern was published then you can make an educated guess as to which crochet terms they used. Found a vintage Australian newspaper clipping or pattern pamphlet via Trove? It is extremely likely that it is using UK crochet terms.
What about other terms?
There are regional differences like gauge vs tension and yarn over vs wrap but these terms are becoming less and less tied to a particular crochet terminology and more a reflection of the resources a person used to learn to crochet and the patterns they are used to seeing. This happens in knitting too. Slightly confusing, but less important because there are still clear definitions.
Crochet at the School of SweetGeorgia
If you are interested in learning to crochet, the School of SweetGeorgia is adding more crochet workshops! Brand new in the School, Charlotte Lee introduces us to crochet joins so that we can seam pieces together to make interesting bags and catchalls. They are useful techniques for anyone looking forward to garments and pieced objects like granny square blankets in their future.